Protesters break into Baghdad’s Green Zone demanding reform
Iraqi protesters broke into the heavily-fortified government complex of Green Zone Saturday, demanding change in the political and economic structure of Iraq.
Protesters moved into the Green Zone, a restricted area which houses the country’s key government institutions, only to ransack the parliament where fierce debates have been going on over a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Reports said the demonstrators, who are supporters of the prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, rampaged through several parts of the parliament building. Others chanted, “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain destruction.
Local sources said gunfire could be heard as people broke into the area while Baghdad’s main military command declared a state of emergency. Other reports said the United Nations closed all its offices in the area.
Iraq has been the scene of a political turmoil in the past weeks over Abadi’s efforts to form a new cabinet.
On April 26, the parliament finally endorsed six new ministers proposed by Abadi despite attempts to block the chamber meeting by about 100 deputies who are reportedly close to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and have opposed Abadi and parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri.
The members of parliament failed for another time in days to reach a quorum and approve new ministers to occupy portfolios in the Abadi administration.
Earlier, Sadr was at a news conference in the holy city of Najaf, where he condemned the political deadlock.
However, the Shia cleric did not order supporters to enter the Green Zone, an area in central Baghdad that houses the parliament, the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office as well as the embassy of the United States and several other countries.
“You are not staying here! This is your last day in the Green Zone,” chanted one protester.
Other people pulled barbed wire across a road leading to one of the exits of the Green Zone, effectively barring the scared lawmakers from fleeing the area.